So says the tag line of a public service TV commercial, FIFA, fútbol’s international governing body, is running during the World Cup, currently being contested in Brazil.
This ad hominem coming, of course, from the body that took bribes to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a nation that is underwriting world terrorists, a land with seriously dangerous summertime Fahrenheit, and, oh yes, no history in the sport whatsoever.
The sentiment expressed in the ad is obviously admirable, given that the world’s most important sporting event has a modus operandi that lends itself to chicanery. It is also somewhat disingenuous.
Which is to not even broach the subject of how the game, which is the focus of such an important worldwide competition among nations, one that inspires incredible passions1 is officiated, essentially, by one overwhelmed fellow on the pitch. A guy who has to be in good enough shape to monitor all the action, while jogging up to 12 miles in a match.
So, yeah, you’ll get no argument here, fighting match manipulation is a good thing.
Which brings me to the strategic decisions facing the United States and Germany as they ready for their final group stage match on Thursday noon.
If they draw, both advance to the knockout round.
There are scenarios, some most improbable to be sure, where one or the other could be overtaken by either Portugal or Ghana, the other Group G participants, who shall also be on the pitch against each other at the same hour Thursday.
So, I must ask.
If the purpose — the sole purpose — of Group play is to advance to the knockout Round of 16, why should either country’s team do anything but play for a tie?
Blasphemous strategy? No doubt.
Contrary to the underlying given of sports: play to win the game? Of course.
Practical thinking? You betcha.
It is almost impossible for the German team not to advance. They’d have to lose to the U.S. by a absurdly large margin, and Ghana or Portugal would have to win its group finale by something like 11 goals. It is possible, though hardly probable.
A draw for the Germans? No problem.
They’d advance as the Group stage winner. To meet, more than likely, Russia or Algeria.
The U.S. can advance, even with a loss. If it loses and Ghana wins, FIFA might have to go with its 23d tiebreaker. Which is, if memory serves, which country’s soccer lovers paid the most money under the table. There’s more breathing room for the red, white and blue if Ronaldo and friends save a bit of face with its first win this World Cup.
A draw for the Americans? No problem.
They’d advance as Group stage runner up. To meet WC dark horse fave Belgium.
So, one guy’s opinion. Germany and the U.S. should do the expedient thing.
Cut the deal.
Play for the draw.
Dribble the ball back and forth in your own zones for 90 minutes. Play the Dean Smith four corners. Bore the crowd and Ian Darke. Stir the ire of purists everywhere.
But, do what you are in Brazil to do: Advance to the knockout stage.
I’m thinking of Greg Popovich here. The San Antonio Spurs coach has been criticized2 in the last couple of seasons for resting his aging stars. For going so far as not taking them along on road trips, to cut down on wear and tear.
Pop’s goal: To be ready for the post season.
America’s goal, Germany’s goal: Make it to the knockout round.
There’s one way both can assure it happens.
Play to a draw.
— Seedy K